Top Ten ways to choose a Custom Home Builder
Signing with a builder is a big commitment. If everything else checks out with the builder, go with your instincts. The single most important factor in a custom building project is how well you and your builder communicate. It is better to invest a bit more to get a builder who you are comfortable with. If you have done a thorough job of choosing the right builder you will have an exciting and enjoyable experience that will leave you with a well built home customized for your lifestyle.
1. Identify your needs and what kind of builder you are seeking:
-How big and customized is your project?
-Will you accept a semi-custom project from a project oriented builder?
-How much time do you have to invest in the building process?
-Often its best to focus on your vocation, that is what you do best, and hire a professional to handle the entire project.
-How much research am I able to do for products and finishes?
-How much time do I have to select materials and finishes?
-How much guidance are you prepared to provide your builder?
-Do you want the full service of a Custom Builder?
-Often its best to focus your time and energy on visiting suppliers, working with samples and making informed selections for your new home while leaving the project management to a professional Custom Builder.
2. Identify 2 or 3 Prospective Builders:
– Ask people you trust for recommendations.
– Do web search to find ones that specialize in your type of project.
– Consult local Homebuilders association.
3. Conduct Phone Interviews:
-Do you do this type of project?
-Is Custom Home Building your core business and are you a licensed full time professional?
-What is your experience and how long have you been in business?
-Are you a member of a Homebuilders association?
-What is your Warranty program?
-What is your post completion warranty and service policy?
-Do you have contractors general liability insurance and Work safe registration? Get copies.
-Can you provide financial references of banks and suppliers?
4. Meet each Builder at their office:
-Make introductions; identify how you heard about their company.
-Do you have a regular team of subcontractors?
-Which tradesmen do you have on staff and what are their qualifications?
-Can we visit one of your current work sites?
-Will you provide us the names and contact information for your last 3 clients?
-Provide a set of preliminary drawings or completed construction drawings.
-Provide all the specifications you have compiled so far.
-Note how the builder communicates:
-How well does he or she listen?
-Does he answer questions satisfactorily? Does he put you at ease?
-Can you work with this person on a valuable 6-month project?
-Do you do Fixed price contracts with allowances?
-Do you do Cost-plus contracts?
-Describe the building process and who on your staff handles various responsibilities?
-How do you manage, share and track communications with your clients?
-How do you manage, store and share the vast amount of information required for a custom project?
5. Contact the Builders 2 or 3 most recent clients:
-Did they complete the Project on Time? If not why?
-Did they complete the Project on Budget? If not why and how much was due to client changes and how much was due to other factors?
-Is the workmanship of High Quality? Can we see your project?
-Did they keep the job site tidy and safe?
-Were the tradesmen courteous? -Were the tradesmen careful with the owner’s property and materials?
-How quickly did they respond to communications and problems?
-How did they track and share project information?
6. Provide the same detailed information to Builders:
-Make sure that all builders have exactly the same set of completed construction drawings with the same date.
-Make sure they all have the same set of specifications.
-They need to be bidding on the same things.
-Allow a reasonable time for them to evaluate and bid on the project.
-Ask for them to provide a date when their bid will be ready? Was it ready on time?
7. Visit each builder’s projects:
-Visit an active construction site;
-Note tidiness, tradesmen, storage of materials etc.
-Visit completed projects:
-Note quality of workmanship, fit and finish, paint finish, joinery etc.
8. Visit builders preferred supply showrooms:
-Set up appointments with builder’s contacts.
-Bring plans for reference.
-Make preliminary selections, have the supplier forward these on to the builders.
-This will really help you know what you are getting.
9. Collect and Compare the builder’s Contract Proposals:
-It must be in writing and professional in appearance.
-Check the level of detail to make sure it is comprehensive.
-Check payment terms. A 2-10% deposit with 3 or 4 progress draws at construction milestones is fair.
-Compare all specifications to determine if they are bidding on the same quality.
-What are the provisions for lien protection?
-Beware of the lowest bidder, this may be a sign that they are struggling or cutting corners or not allowing for the appropriate amount of time to service your needs.
-Consider having a third party look over the Contract documents.
-Look for the best VALUE.
-Best value is the combination of price, quality and service, which will be delivered in a smooth and timely manner.
10. Meet with successful builder to award the building contract:
-Contact the builder who is your first choice.
-Who is my primary contact for this project?
-What is our site-meeting schedule and policy?
-How are showroom allowances handled and invoiced?
-How many projects do you normally run at a time?
-How many projects will you have on during our project?
-What are your projected start and completion dates?
-Clarify any specifications or questions you have about the contract proposal.
-Clarify the builders change order management process and fees charged for these.
-Ask for projected start and completion dates.
-Sign the contract and provide the deposit.